Offensively, the 49ers significantly struggled, as quarterback Brock Purdy completed just 12/27 of his passes for 125 yards, throwing his first interception of the season, while the team suffered from injuries and a number of penalties
Defensively, the 49ers played a fairly strong game in the air, forcing an interception and holding P.J. Walker to a 53 percent completion rate, but San Francisco allowed 160 yards on the ground at a 4.7 yards-per-carry rate, which allowed the Browns to control the time of possession.
Here are three quick takeaways from the 49ers 19-17 loss to the Browns.
Honeymoon period over
It was bound to happen at some point.
Coming into the game, kicker Jake Moody was riding a hot streak to begin the season, converting all nine of his field goal opportunities, including a 57-yard attempt.
It was a good sign, given Moody’s apparent struggles in the preseason that raised questions about whether the 49ers should hand such an important job over to an unseasoned rookie.
But, those questions were quieted as Moody had started well, while the 49ers didn’t really put him into many high-leverage situations.
That changed on Sunday, as the 49ers relied on their rookie kicker to win the ballgame, and Moody couldn’t convert from 41 yards with less than ten seconds remaining.
The potential game-winner wasn’t Moody’s only miscue of the day, as the 49ers kicker missed an early 54-yarder wide as well, leading to a 1/3 performance.
It was a day with less-than-admirable weather conditions, but nonetheless, Moody didn’t convert in a high-leverage situation for the 49ers, and it is safe to say that the honeymoon period for the rookie kicker is now over.
It’s only one game and Moody has delivered thus far this season, but that’s why the kicker position comes under such scrutiny: every mistake can be a game-changer.
The 49ers made a major investment that broke precedent when selecting Moody in the third round, and he’ll have to carry those high expectations throughout his career in San Francisco.
He’ll gain more opportunities in high-leverage situations, but it was a tough game for Moody.
Coming into the game, I dictated this one as a grueling battle, given the way that both defenses have played thus far this season.
That meant each team couldn’t beat themselves with issues like penalties and turnovers, but both were prevalent in an ugly battle for the 49ers.
San Francisco was penalized 12 times for 115 yards on the day, an unacceptable feat, while the Browns saw 13 penalties go against them in the physical battle.
Be it false starts that consistently served as drive killers, defensive penalties extending drives for Cleveland, or even the crucial special-teams penalties that San Francisco committed to aid the Browns’ field position, it was an ugly effort for the 49ers on that end.
Sure, several of the penalties were questionable, but there were another number that were blatant on San Francisco’s end, and those cannot occur.
In losses, the 49ers have developed a pattern of leveling their play down to their opponents, and penalties are a clear example of that.
Regardless of the opponent, the 49ers cannot have these many penalties occur, and they directly led to missed opportunities in all three facets of the field on Sunday.
Throughout his career, head coach Kyle Shanahan has developed a reputation for his team’s inability to finish games, and that was another issue on Sunday.
Looking at the final stretch of the game, the 49ers defense held Cleveland to a field goal on a 14-play, 43-yard drive that lasted over seven minutes, which kept them ahead with a 17-16 lead at the 3:21 mark.
With the offense struggling all afternoon and Jordan Mason in the backfield, it seemed like the best option would’ve been to run the football, forcing the clock to dwindle down or the Browns to use up their timeouts, with the hopes of generating at least one first down.
Instead, Kyle Shanahan called upon the passing game once again, and the results were suboptimal.
Brock Purdy committed an intentional grounding penalty on first down while trying to get rid of the football against a free rusher, stopping the clock and backing the 49ers up.
That prompted San Francisco to call three consecutive passing plays on the drive, eating up just 16 seconds of game clock, providing the Browns with the football at the 3:05 mark with all of their timeouts.
With help from two questionable penalties, the Browns drove down the field, but San Francisco once again forced a field goal, providing Brock Purdy and the offense with a chance to win the game with 1:41 remaining and a timeout, needing just a field goal.
Struggling initially, the 49ers were bailed out by a holding penalty on third down before Brandon Aiyuk made two nice catches to propel the offense downfield, where they eventually set up a 41-yard Jake Moody field goal attempt.
Of course, we all know what happened there, as Moody missed wide right, giving the 49ers their first loss of the season.
San Francisco had several opportunities to win this hard-fought contest in the last few minutes, and ultimately fell short, despite having the game in their hands.
They’ve pushed away from opponents in the second halves of games this season, but that wasn’t the case against the Browns, and San Francisco couldn’t close this one out, leading to a disappointing ending.